5 Guiding Principles of a 243 year old Business Legend

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Management research of the best businesses in the world have highlighted some important practices for business success. If you’re building a business, it will be of great benefit to know and understand these practices at the beginning of your venture. The current Knowledge Age allows us to find these practices and study how to apply them to what we are doing today.

As you analyze these successful and enduring businesses, you will find they share several principles as guides for all of their business activities. The key thing is: they never deviate from their most important principles. Today we are calling them “Core Values”.

The ability to stay with the adopted principles gives these enduring businesses stability in times of change. These principles insure stability and focus in a highly unstable environment. Enduring businesses find comfort in what they know and what they have committed to. This is reassuring to the owners, customers and employees. It shows in the sustainability and growth of their businesses.

One excellent example of a legendary company with sustained principles is Birkenstock founded in the year 1774 in Langen-Bergheim, Germany.

“At Birkenstock, tradition and heritage are important hallmarks of a brand that dates back not years or even decades, but centuries. Birkenstock is deeply rooted in the fine art of crafting premium quality shoes that are good for you. Since 1774, Birkenstock has passed this commitment down from one generation to the next. The result is the absolute best in quality, comfort and support.”

The core of their Mission is: “Birkenstock is deeply rooted in the fine art of crafting premium quality shoes that are good for you.” You immediately know that the shoes are of excellent quality and great for your health. They are committed to providing value and contributing to human welfare. Notice also, that the Mission is focused on one product. They have kept this focus throughout the years.

Johann Adam Birkenstock developed a footbed for shoes that were flexible with arch support. It was called the “blue footbed”. He trained podiatrists on the benefits of the “blue footbed”. The company later designed a sandal with a deep, flexible footbed that is known around the world for comfort.

In 1988, the company introduced environmentally-friendly adhesives to produce his shoes. They set the standard for environmental awareness all over the world. They also modernized production by reducing energy consumption by 90%. This reinforced their focus on the health of their customers and the environment. This was further reinforced with books, better base materials, and machines for footwear production. Birkenstock continues to lead in orthopedic and comfort footwear all over the world.

So, what are the prevailing principles of success for the Birkenstock organization?

-The principle of excellence prevails in all operations. A timeline detailed in the Birkenstock History describes meticulous attention to detail throughout the years. The techniques, materials and production equipment were continually improved and streamlined.

-The principle of customer care is carried through the years. It’s evident in the study and training in the field of podiatry. One example was the hiring of Konrad Birkenstock Sr to manufacture footwear for wounded soldiers in 1915.

-The principle of contribution to society has always been important to the Birkenstock Mission. This was shown when the “Birkenstock classes” were established. 5,000 specialists were trained in 1932. As a result, many doctors supported the Birkenstock system. The company also published a book “Podiatric System Birkenstock” that sold 14,000 copies. It was the most widely read textbook on podiatry at the time.

-The principle of environmental protection was important from the beginning. In1988 environmentally friendly adhesives were introduced. In 1990 energy consumption in shoe production was reduced by 90%. In 1995, they produced sandals without using any adhesives.

-The principle of innovation was engrained into the culture of the business from the beginning also. The environmentally friendly examples and others highlighted above prove this. However, there are a few more examples of innovation to highlight. In 1999, the company designed the world’s first super light weight EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) clog. In 2001, a computerized picking machine to facilitate rapid order fulfillment was developed.

“Birkenstock remains a family company, maintaining these traditions up to this day.”

The traditions of excellence, customer care, societal contribution, environmental protection and innovation continues. These principles show up time and time again in the management research of legendary companies. Many of these companies follow some of the described principles. See the studies of Collins and Porras, Buckingham and Coffman and others.

Consider following in the footsteps of legendary businesses as you build your growing enterprise.

Your questions might be: How do I design principles I can commit to? or How can I make sure people working with me always stick to my principles? Continue reading.

4 characteristics of Legendary Business Missions

9 Ways to Embed Innovation and Creativity into your Business Environment

Lost Customers, Revenue and Employees: Cultural Implications for Business

4 Benefits of Integrity As A Core Value for Profound Business Building

Core Values: Your Competitive Edge

20 Directives for Small Business Success: Do or Die

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